BOONE — Appalachian State University announced on March 20 that it will host a “virtual commencement” in May instead of its usual ceremonies at the Holmes Convocation Center. In addition, May graduates will have the option to participate in the December 2020 commencement ceremonies, according to Appalachian State.

Chancellor Sheri Everts stated in a message to students that University of North Carolina system President Bill Roper announced at the March 20 Board of Governors meeting that spring graduation ceremonies will be disrupted. Campuses were able to make independent decisions about how to move forward with commencement ceremonies.

“There are many details to work out, but please know my leadership team and I are committed to preserving, to the greatest extent possible, the essence of the celebrations and milestones of the final weeks of the spring semester — including commencement,” Everts said in her message. “We don’t know exactly what that will look like, but we are working hard on virtual solutions.”

According to Everts, university administrators are in regular contact with counterparts across the UNC system and in the system office.

“We are following system guidance together and applying it to our campuses in the ways that make the most sense for each of our situations,” Everts said in her message.

Everts also expressed gratitude to the university community for adjusting to “rapidly developing, unprecedented challenges.” She added that faculty and staff were working long hours to transition to alternative course delivery for students.

“For many of us, the ‘Appalachian Experience’ is firmly grounded in a sense of place,” Everts’ message said. “We are all saddened by our empty classrooms and sunny days with no hammocks and slacklines, and while we are fortunate to have technology to keep us connected, Zoom meetings and Panopto just aren’t the same.”

According to the university, out of the 5,674 students who lived on campus, only 160 of them met the criteria to remain in the residence halls. Other students picked up essentials — or more — this week and returned to their homes. Everts said the residence halls had been thoroughly cleaned, and only the aforementioned approved residents will be allowed in the buildings.

According to a March 20 report from Roper, the UNC system tried encouraging students to stay away from campuses. But 30 to 40 percent of UNC system students remained on campus in response to this “opt-out approach.” The system shifted to a policy of requiring students to seek permission to stay on campus, and Roper said he system hoped to see the number of those who remain will be closer to 10 percent on each campus.

App State will be operating with reduced staffing for facilities, meaning employees are operating under limited capacities. The academic classroom and office buildings, Plemmons Student Union and university libraries are keeping their core services available. However, some buildings will be key- or card-access only. Dining facilities are on a reduced schedule, and takeout only.

As many faculty and students are accustomed to face-to-face interaction, Everts said it has taken tremendous effort on the part of the faculty to make the move to teaching online.

“It will not be a seamless transition, and as we work out the kinks together, it will be important to be patient and recognize we are all working alongside one another to provide the best possible academic experience for our students,” Everts said.

For more information about Appalachian State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.appstate.edu/go/coronavirus.

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